Let me show you my flours…

Sometimes, I find explaining the gluten-free diet to people who have no concept of avoiding gluten actually reminds me of how far I’ve come. In a year and a half, I have gone from tearfulness in the FreeFrom aisle, to the proud owner of 9 – yes, 9! – types of flour.

Once you get off the “wheat flour” bandwagon, and search for alternatives, suddenly it seems everything can be made into a flour. This can be quite overwhelming, but I would definitely recommend the “buy it and try it” approach to working out which flours you prefer to work with. I found tapioca and quinoa flour in a small shop in the Malvern Hills, so it really pays to keep your eyes open and buy whenever you see a flour you haven’t seen before.

A bit much? Or just enough?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From left to right: Masa Harina (for making corn tortillas), Plain white flour blend, Gram (chickpea) flour, Buckwheat flour, Tapioca flour, Quinoa flour, Cornmeal, Ground almonds, Sorghum flour

Notable absentees: White rice flour, Brown rice flour, Sweet rice flour, Potato flour/starch

But why all these flours? Why not just use one type of flour?

There is no single “magic” flour which will replace wheat flour. For cakes and breads, which require large amounts of flour, doing a simple swap for one flour just won’t work. The reason wheat has been used and cultivated for generations is because it tastes good and is nice and doughy (aka full of gluten), so perfect for making breads. Gluten-free flours have different properties. For example, buckwheat flour has a distinct nutty taste, gram flour is quite dense, rice flour is quite light and bland and tapioca has some natural elasticity (it’s the main ingredient in Isabel’s pizza mix). There is no substitute for experimenting though, and when you do, have a feel and a smell of the flour as you put it in. Be sure to taste the batter too…

How do I know which flour to use?

Generally, the Dove’s farm plain white flour blend is excellent for many baked goods, and good for the beginner. In some recipes (e.g. my lemon-lime cupcakes), normal recipes can be done with a straight swap, others you may find you need to add some xanthan gum. Be brave and experiment. The worst that will happen is it won’t rise properly (I’ve made my fair share of “flat” bread), but treat it like a scientific investigation. The chances are it will still taste good, even if it’s not picture perfect. (Oh, and don’t panic and add loads of xanthan gum to pancake batter, you will end up with a non-Newtonian substance that is incredibly hard to make into pancakes!)

For a comprehensive guide to many types of gluten-free flours, see Gluten Free Girl’s glossary

So do I win? Can anyone claim more gluten-free flours than me? (Photos required as proof!)

 

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The Happy Coeliac

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Comments (7)

  1. Catherine Thursday - 13 / 09 / 2012 Reply
    I only have a paltry 3 different flours in my cupboard at the moment...but looking forward to investing in some others. Might be branching out into chickpea flour this weekend :)
    • The Happy Coeliac Thursday - 13 / 09 / 2012 Reply
      Chickpea flour is great for savoury foods (falafel springs to mind)!
  2. Mark Thursday - 13 / 09 / 2012 Reply
    Would you recommend any of these to those who can eat gluton? I've used gram before to make onion bhajjis.
    • The Happy Coeliac Thursday - 13 / 09 / 2012 Reply
      I would recommend masa harina to make authentic corn tortillas (you might need a press though). I personally like the taste of buckwheat (some don't), but mixed with a blander flour is good in pancakes. Gram is great for bhajis and falafel. Polenta (or cornmeal) is great for creating a crunchy crust (e.g., for fried chicken/fish). If you can eat gluten you get the best of both worlds: you can mix the interesting flavours of the gluten-free flours with the versatility of wheat flour.
  3. Ruth Wednesday - 19 / 09 / 2012 Reply
    Where do you get masa harina from (have looked for it a lot but can never find it ) and have the same problem sourcing sorghum flour. Any help would be great!
    • The Happy Coeliac Thursday - 20 / 09 / 2012 Reply
      I got the masa harina from Whole Foods, but you can buy it online here: http://www.coolchile.co.uk/products/view/masa-harina-for-tortillas Sorghum flour is a bit harder to find - my brother found it in an Indian supermarket in Harrow. However, it looks like you can buy it online as well: http://www.theasiancookshop.co.uk/sorghum-flour-juwar-flour-326-p.asp Hope this helps! It's annoying having to buy food off the internet, but sorghum flour is very good in gluten-free breads (must try some recipes!)

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